At the end of part one in this study I questioned if it
would be the last word that I would have to say concerning the
subject at hand. It was not very long after that comment that I
received two more study papers on this topic. For the individuals
who have only recently come out of the church organization known
as the Worldwide Church of God, this topic of Church Government
is very high on the study list.
It seems thousands are just now beginning to come to the
light, (their one time church organization had for many decades
departed from the plain truth of the New Testament) as to the
pattern of church government that Jesus and the early apostolic
church taught and practiced.
The two new papers that have come across my desk in the last
six months(I am writing in the late summer of 1996) are by Norman
Edwards and John Difley.
The paper by Norman Edwards is called "How Does the Eternal
Govern Through Humans?" And the paper by John Difley is named
"By What Authority?"
The former was written in June 1995 (first edition, which I
answer later) while the latter was published in 1996.
Both of the above study papers (Mr.Edwards now has a new
edition to his paper, which at present, Jan.1999 I have not yet
read, due to lack of time) can be obtained free of charge by
Servant's News, PO Box 220, Charlotte, Michigan 48813-0220
Mr.Edwards and Mr.Difley have come to see many truths
contained in the New Testament(NT forthwith).
I fully agree with much of what they have to say, BUT
POLITELY DISAGREE WITH THEM ON CERTAIN POINTS THEY RAISE.
Below you will find their full words on certain points of
thought, and my reply to their argument.
I do appreciate their study and work. In the main we have
much in common, and I am hoping that no one will construe that my
rebuttal of some of their thoughts or beliefs is an attack on
their integrity of character.
I will start my replies to various points with the paper by
John Difley(J.D.) called By What Authority?
No "Ordination Ceremonies" in the Bible
........Ordination, in the religious sense, comes strictly
from pagan origins and customs and is not biblical in
foundation......No place does the Bible command, espouse, or
suggest a service (ceremony) of ordination. Quite to the contrary
the biblical example is for the local congregation or fellowship
to collectively lay hands upon an individual that they have
jointly chosen and together commend that individual to God for
the appointed position......
First, let us look at the word "ordination" or more
specifically - "ordain." Here in part is what the Reader's
Digest Family Word Finder has to say:
"....1......confer holy orders upon, name,
invest....consecrate; appoint, commission,
delegate, deputize, elect. 2.....decree, rule,
I want you to keep in mind that this word "ordain" can also,
in our English usage, mean in certain contexts - consecrate,
appoint, delegate, commission, and elect.
Now the World Book Dictionary in part says this about the
"....1. to establish as a law; order; fix; decide;
appoint......2. to appoint or consecrate officially as a
clergyman. 3. to appoint (a person, etc.) to a charge, duty, or
office.....Old French ordener, learned, borrowing from the Latin
ordinare, arrange (in Medieval Latin, consecrate; take holy
Notice point number 3 again! This word not only means
appoint to a duty or charge, it not only means learned, BUT IT
CAN ALSO MEAN - CONSECRATE! I am not sure what runs through the
mind of Mr.Difley when he hears the English word "ordain"
but I suspect it may not be the same as how I understand the
For the word "consecrate" the above mentioned Dictionary
says: "....1. to set apart as sacred; make sacred or
holy......2......3. to devote (to a purpose): A doctor's
life is consecrated to curing sick people.....Syn.v.t. 1.
sanctify. 3. dedicate. See devote."
AAAHHH! Now we have the word sanctify used in conjunction
Again, here is what the World Book Dictionary has to say about
the word sanctify:
"......1. to make....holy......2. to set apart as sacred;
observe as holy; consecrate: And God blessed the seventh day, and
sanctified it (Genesis 2:3). 3. to make (a person) free from sin.
4. to make right......."
Do you feel we are going in CIRCLES? Yes, we are to a
large extent! Can you see how the words ordain, consecrate, and
sanctify may all be chosen to say the same thing and convey the
same idea and thought to the English speaking mind? If used in
the context of physical men under the banner of God's truth and
service, then the thought of mind is to certain people who are
called, appointed, set apart, devoted to a purpose. And
consecrated in learned ability to be a teacher of others in word
and deed to the WAY of the Eternal God.
With what we see above about this word "ordain" I just
cannot fathom from a "religious sense" that it has any direct
origin with the pagans. Oh, they also may have had the custom of
electing men and setting them apart to serve in their false
worship of false gods. Does that mean God has not the right to
elect, ordain, consecrate, set apart, men to serve Him and His
children, either by calling them direct(as He did with the
apostle Paul) or through other humans(as we saw in the first part
of this study)?
The pagans had a special one day a week to worship their
Does that mean God has no right to establish the 7th day as
ordained, sanctified, set apart time, to worship Him?
The pagans had their seasonal festivals. Does that mean God
cannot have seasonal festivals?
The heathen had their yearly calendar. By so having, did
that mean God could not establish His yearly calendar?
The pagans had a religious priesthood, therefore was it not
permissable for the Eternal God to have one?
The pagans established an animal sacrificial system. Was it
wrong for the Lordto also establish such a system with ancient
My answer to the above is of course a resounding - NO!
What the pagans DID or did NOT do, has really no bearing on
what the perfect, holy, righteous God did do, does do, will do,
or will not do.
What in the "religious sense" does the word Ordination
convey to your mind? Is it something "pagan"? Does it convey to
you something "evil" or "dirty" or "false."? Well, I guess if you
think about all the false "wolves in sheeps clothing" clergy in
the world, then it may to you be an offensive word. But if you
put it in the context of those truly called and chosen,
consecrated, set apart, appointed, elected by God. Men who serve
the spiritual needs of the sons and daughters of the
Lord........then I think the word Ordination will take on a
wonderful and inspiring meaning. A meaning that lifts the heart
to praise and thank the Eternal for having His ordained Elders to
lead and guide His called out ones - His ordained children, who
collectively constitute His ordained Church.
Mr.Difley says Ordination is "not biblical in foundation."
Well, I will now show you where God HIMSELF commanded that there
would be a "consecration ceremony," a "setting apart" ceremony,
an "appointment to religious duty" service, an Ordination service
if you will! It has been in your Bible for centuries. It is in
the Old Testament, but the things of old are written for our
admonition, for our edification, for our salvation
(1Cor.10:11-12; 2 Tim.3:15-17).
Listening to Moses and the prophets(Old Testament) is more
important than any literal physical miracle (Luke 16:31).
With that said, let's turn to Leviticus chapter eight. We
shall start to read from verse one.
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ' Take
Aaron and his sons with him....the anointing oil....and gather
all the congregation together at the door of the tabernacle of
meeting.' So Moses did as the Lord commanded him.....And Moses
said to the congregation, ' This is what the LORD COMMANDED TO BE
DONE' " (verses 1-5).
Notice verse 9, more commands from God, as with verse 13,
17, 21, 29, 35, 36. The WHOLE ELABORATE process described in this
chapter was commanded by the Lord!
Look at verse 12, "And he poured some of the anointing oil
on Aaron's head and anointed him, to CONSECRATE him" (NKJV
throughout unless otherwise stated). The KJV of 1611 does not
use the word consecrate but the word "sanctify."
Verse 30 in the old KJV is: "And Moses took of the anointing
oil....and sprinkled it upon Aaron....and upon his sons....and
SANCTIFIED Aaron....and his sons....with him."
The NKJV does not use the word sanctified but the word
But the intent to the English mind is the same - these men
were SET APART, ELECTED, APPOINTED, to the duty of religious
service in a special way among the people of Israel, who formed
the "church in the wilderness"(Acts 7:38).
All of this specific occurrence took place as the
"congregation" looked on. Read again verses two through to verse
five. This was in a PUBLIC setting!
Now, let me ask you: What would you call this special event?
Would you call it a "church prayer meeting"? Would you call it a
"church Bible study"? Maybe a "church picnic" - I speak in jest.
What words come to your English mind (I am writing as an
Englishman) that convey to your understanding about what was
taking place in this chapter of Leviticus? Do you think of the
words "church service," well some may? It was a "service" of a
type, as we think and use that English word concerning a
religious congregation. Does the words "sanctification service"
or "consecration service" pop into your mind as you read this
chapter? I am sure with many they do.
Yet MANY English readers will think of the words "dedication
service" and/or "Ordination service." And WHY NOT? For the
whole context of this chapter, all the basic underlying themes of
this command from the Lord, is what the English mind thinks of as
an ORDINATION SERVICE of men to an elected, called, appointed
function of service in the work of the Eternal, toward humanity
and especially toward the people of the Church of God.
I do not care what the pagans did or did not do in public
toward their elected priests of their religions. We are here
looking at what GOD COMMANDED! I feel quite "at home" in calling
this public setting apart of elected men to serving in a
religious function, as an "Ordination service."
To be frank. I am somewhat puzzled and even a little
disturbed at what presently seems like a "disdain" by some
persons(such as Mr.Difley and Mr.Edwards) for the words
"ordination" or "ordination service" or "ordination of men."
They seem to want to put forth the teaching that this word is not
to be used in commending men, or that it is connected somehow
with evil or sin.
John the Baptist conducted his ministry in the wilderness of
Judea. It was a public ministry. He baptized people out in the
open, crowds came to hear him and hundreds went under the water
in baptism by him(Matthew 3:1-12).
Jesus, already a servant of the Most High, already a
spiritual elder in Israel, already learned and performing the
work of God toward the people of God. This Jesus comes to John
for baptism, not because He needed to repent of sin and be
forgiven of sins, but "to fulfil all righteousness"(verses
Now look what happens when Jesus comes out of the water. The
Spirit of God descends upon Him, a voice from heaven says, "This
is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"(verses 16,17).
Did Jesus not have the Spirit of God at this time in His
life? No! It is written He had the Spirit without measure from
His conception. Was Jesus only now "well pleasing" to the
Father? Of course not! He had been well pleasing to the Father
from the beginning - for He was sinless.
The truth is, this was now a SPECIAL TIME in the life of
Jesus. He was now to embark very shortly into the most important
three and one half years of His physical life. He was now too
really "zero in" on serving and dedicating His elected calling to
the children of God. What could be more fitting at this juncture
than the Father openly and publicly performing a "consecration" -
"setting apart" - public acknowledgment of service in the past
and that to come, by His Son?
If Aaron was given a public sanctification service of
religious duty and function, he being only a sinful man, surely
the sinless Son of the Eternal God would have no less an
ordination service? And He did not!
Turn to Acts chapter six. This is the well-known chapter for
the first choosing of men who would "serve tables."
Read verses one to seven. I shall come back later to look at
this in detail when I answer another argument, but for now we see
men who met certain requirements as laid down by the apostles.
They, the "multitude of disciples"(verse 2) brought these men
before the apostles, who "when they had prayed, laid their hands
on them"(verse 6).
This was a public ceremony,where many were witnesses to this
event. Not only the apostles(ministers, elders, spiritual
overseers) but also a "multitude of disciples."
What if using English words would you call this ceremony?
Some would say it was a "church service" and I guess it would
come under that generic phrase. But most religious English born
persons would narrow it down to more specific words than just a
church service, for the context of the verses convey to the mind
a certain type of ceremony here described.
Many would instantly say this was a "sanctification service"
or a "consecration ceremony" or an "ordination service to
There is nothing to the average English mind that smacks at
"evil" or "pagan" in the words ordination service to deaconship.
Most church goers read the first six verses of Acts chapter six,
and understand them as certain men being publicly set apart,
sanctified, consecrated, ordained, appointed, elected, to serve
and function in the duty of physical things within the church -
deacons or servers.
These men did have to meet certain requirements, they were
elected, they had to be willing to answer that calling, and they
did go through a public ceremony where certain literal things
were performed. The most important, as the ones recorded for
us - prayer and the laying on of hands.
We in the English language have given that whole process a
name, which immediately conveys to our mind certain specifics
that the generic phrase "church service" cannot. We have named
the process of Acts 6:1-6 as an ORDINATION SERVICE!
And WHY ON EARTH NOT!
CONCERNING ORDINATION TO THE ELDERSHIP
We have seen in part one of this study that God has chosen
two ways to call a man to serve in His spiritual eldership
ministry - 1. He Himself with signs, miracles, visions, angels,
or personal appearance to the man being called. There is no
record that the 12 apostles or the apostle Paul went through some
kind of ordination service by physical men. They were personally
chosen and called by the Lord Himself, and what better or greater
ordination could there be than that! 2. God uses other men to
publicly acknowledge certain individuals have been called by the
Lord to spiritual leadership and overseeing of His children. Does
the service of public consecration or ordination somehow "throw
the switch" and magically "presto" - make that man into a
"minister" from a lay person? Now that would indeed be a miracle
if it did.Of course such a literal ceremony cannot make a man
into a true minister of God. Nor can it guarantee to the end of
his life that he will not go astray or become a false minister if
he started out as a true one(see again Acts 20).
The ceremony of baptism by physical persons in a public
setting(most baptisms are usually performed with others around as
witnesses, though it is not a command) does not magically turn
the person being baptized into a true Christian IF the heart and
mind of the individual is not right with God. He can see the
heart, whereas men can be fooled and deceived by the outward
signs and actings and words of others. A person going through
baptism with a true heart and mind has already been living to the
best of his/her ability and knowledge the life of a Christian.
The ceremony of baptism is an outward physical sign that an
inward change of the heart and mind HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE.
Which has already led the person to think, to speak, to act, to
conduct themselves in a way that is pleasing to God.
So similarly is an ordination service of men to the
spiritual eldership in the church. It is a physical act usually
in a public setting(by that I mean members of the congregation
present) to ACKNOWLEDGE that this man or men, have already been
functioning in their lives as spiritual leaders, guides and
overseers, within the body of Christ.
The ceremony itself will not make that man into a spiritual
leader if he has not already become one. An ordination service
will not make that man into a true minister of God if he is not
already one in heart and mind. And as the word of the Lord
clearly shows, that "setting apart" service will not, from that
moment on, guarantee that man will remain as a true spiritual
elder of God until his death. Do we stop baptizing people
because some "pull the wool over our eyes" and fool us into
thinking they have the right godly heart and mind when they do
not, or because some later leave the faith and make shipwreck
their Christian walk? No, of course we do not!
Should we then stop performing ordination services because
some men have deceived us into thinking they are true spiritual
elders and overseers when they are not, or because some will turn
themselves into false minister and start "speaking perverse
things to draw away disciples after them"(Acts 20:30)? No, of
I am trying to see, probably looking through a glass darkly,
as to why Mr.Difley/Edwards, have such a "horror" for the word
ordination, or throw out such "end of argument" phrases as: You
cannot find the words "ordination service" in the Bible.
Big deal. I cannot find the words "baptism service" used in
the Bible either, yet that does not mean people were not baptized
in an open public baptism ceremony, where certain things would
have been said and done in a chosen manner by those
participating. The exact specific pattern of physical action and
words spoken (what is said to the one being baptized by the
person doing the baptizing, how is the one being baptized put
under the water, backwards, frontwards, sideways, squatting,
etc.) is not given to us, only the example and teaching that
believers are to be baptized in water and have the laying on of
The NT writers conveyed to our minds that people were
baptized with certain words, it got the message across to us,
which is the important thing. So they used other words and not
the words "baptism service" or "baptismal ceremony." That
combination of words cannot be found in the Bible, so what I say.
Does that prove anything one way or the other? Not really.
Language does change over a period of time, how we use words,
the phrases we use, the combination of words we use to express
the same image on the part of the brain that functions to
understand correctly the truth being promulgated, may change over
time, but the truth never changes. How we use words to express
that truth may change, but the truth itself never does.
The words "second coming" are not to be found in the Bible.
Most fundamental Christians instantly know the truth of what
those words are meant to convey to the mind. They know that those
words in a nut shell, give the truth of the scriptures that Jesus
will literally, in power and glory, bodily return again to this
The NT writers did not use that combination of words to
express this truth. Jesus is recorded to have said, "I will come
again." We find such phrases as "the coming of the Lord" and
others in the NT, but nowhere can you find the phrase "second
Now is it wrong for us today to use such a phrase among
ourselves as Christians to proclaim the truth of scripture that
Christ will come back to live on this earth again as He once did
before? No, indeed not!
It is just a form of English to express among ourselves a
certain biblical truth.
Our English words ordination service or ordination ceremony
are a combination of words that speak to our mind in a certain
way, as we have come to customarily use and expect them to be
used within a certain context. The average religious English
-speaking person would immediately associate those words with the
consecration service of Aaron to Israel's high-priesthood, and
the 6 men of Acts chapter six to that of "table
servers" or as commonly called today in most churches - deacons.
The truth that words convey to the mind is the important
thing, not the sounding of the words, not the language of the
words, not the spelling of the words, not the combination of the
words used, but the truth the words tell you!
Mr.Difley says that nowhere does the Bible command or
suggest a service(ceremony) of ordination. This we have already
shown to be incorrect. But he goes on to say: "Quite to the
contrary the biblical example is for the local congregation
or fellowship to collectively lay their hands upon an individual
that they have jointly chosen and together commend that
individual to God for the appointed position."
Now how does a group of say 100 or more persons in a
congregation lay hands on an individual "collectively" - all
simultaneously, and "together commend" him to God? How can a
group of 100 all say the same words at the same time? Maybe I am
not understanding Mr.Difley's words correctly. But surely even in
this setting that he puts forth, any size congregation would have
to delegate this laying on of hands and "commending" to a basic
few. It would just not be literally physically possible to do
this any other way within a large congregation..
So Mr.Difley IS SAYING that a congregation brings forth an
individual, he stands before them, hands are laid upon him, and
he is commended to the Lord some how and in some way.
Let us suppose we are one of the members of that
congregation. We want to tell others what has taken place. What
are we going to CALL, what actual WORDS, are we going to name
this process? Are we going to call it a "chosen one procedure"
or "elected for service program" or "called out ceremony"? We
are going to have to give it a name, sooner or later, just from
the way things work as we speak a language to each other in
communicating. It will be given a name that will become the norm,
so everyone will immediately understand what our church did to
If this is not a "service of ordination" or putting it the
other way, if this is not an ordination service. If the Bible
does not even suggest a service or ceremony of ordination
THEN WHAT ARE WE DOING BRINGING ANYONE FORWARD IN A
CONGREGATIONAL SETTING TO LAY HANDS UPON THEM AND COMMEND THEM
TO THE LORD?
Are we just playing with words here? We cannot have an
ordination service because the Bible supposedly does not uphold
it(which is not true) yet can have some kind of ceremony,
service, which brings individuals forth to have hands laid upon
them for service. It still leave us having to come up with words
to describe our new "ordination service" if we cannot call it by
Or is this whole matter really to do with some who have
experienced being in an organization that not only had totally
wrong "church government" and were even "cultic" in their
ministerial power over the rank and file membership? Elders of
their church dictatorial in words and manner, ruling with an iron
hand, having SS men reporting to them about ones who were
"rebelling" against headquarters, or "asking too many questions."
Is this whole thing about persons who have seen the total ABUSE
and PERVERSION of the eldership ministry, who have experienced
the false doctrine of a "pecking order" authoritarian "do as we
say or we will disfellowship you" cult teaching?
Is it that these people in wanting to be free from such evil
bondage, having seen how men were elected to eldership by other
powerful, power-hungry, loyal no matter what, to the dictates of
the organization run by one human man, having seen how elders
were chosen and turned into clones of existing elders. Now seeing
this to be wrong and evil, have walked away to the other extreme
in rejecting even the words ordination service, and espouse the
other way that seems right unto men, but hidden within it lies
as much sorrow, pain, and deception, as the one they left -
namely, that it is the membership of the congregation that only
and finally decides who will be its spiritual elders.
Many in so freeing themselves from one tyranny have not seen
the devil coming as an angel of light to catch them in another
net of falsehood and deception, so will end up in being a part of
and fulfilment of the prophetic words of Paul when he said to
Timothy: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound
doctrine; but according to their own desires, because they have
itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they
will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to
fables" (2 Tim. 4:3,4).
There can be as much danger (with carnality, politics,
personalities, etc.) in a whole congregation believing and
thinking they have the last word on who is to serve them in
the spiritual eldership, as the existing eldership believing they
have all dictatorial authority over everything without any
participation or consideration from the membership. Both are
extremes. Both will lead to the camp of Satan in the long run,
just give it enough time. As Jesus said, "Wide is the gate that
leads to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat." The
devil and the demons have cut many paths and highways for many
different types of people to ride upon, all leading to the net of
captivity and death. Jesus told us, "Straight and narrow is the
path to eternal life and few therebe that find it."
The key is the plumb line down the middle (Amos 7:7,8). Get
too far to the right and you are off the mark, get too far to the
left and you are just as far off the mark. The pendulum down the
centre is where it's at - straight and narrow is the path to
The laying on of hands to commend one to God is very common
throughout the Old and New Testaments. Can this accurately be
called ordination? Certainly not!.......The purpose of laying on
of hands was always the same no matter what the cause, to commend
one to God. The intent was always that God would bless. Never was
the intent that man, through ceremony, could somehow make binding
decisions for God, or commit God to work through an individual
chosen by man......
In the main I agree with what is stated above. Yet I believe
you could make a case that the laying on of hands for anything is
an ordination if you understand the context and the meaning of
the word WITHIN that context. We have seen that the words
consecrate, sanctify, ordain, can be used as synonyms within
certain contexts. Was a father's blessing on a particular child
with the laying on of hands a sanctifying, a setting apart, a
consecration, an ordination for a particular purpose? Well yes
it was. To set that person apart, to appoint that individual, to
elect that person to receive that blessing given by the
Are the sick who receive anointing and laying on of hands
being consecrated, set apart, sanctified, ordained, to a special
purpose? Why, yes they are. They are being set apart, appointed,
to receive the gift of healing from the Lord.
So again, it's how you want to think of the word ordain and
the context it's used in. It is I grant mainly used today in the
context of "church ministry."
Certainly the purpose of the laying on of hands was to
commend one to God.
Please note the last sentence of J.D's. in the above
comments. Reading between the lines I feel he is hinting at a
wrong teaching proclaimed by his former church.
I am very familiar with the teachings of the Worldwide
Church of God, being a member from 1961 to 1972 and keeping a
close watch on them since. Through various sources I could follow
their progressive "cultic" mind set from 1979 to 1986 when their
founder Herbert Armstrong died. The members were taught that HWA
was God's ONLY apostle on earth, directly under Christ Himself in
authority. He was certainly the final authority in the WCG
organization - what he said everyone else was to obey. The
membership was taught that God was fully in charge through the
ministry, all the elders were divinely appointed by the Lord, no
errors no mistakes. The people were to obey them with no
questions asked, in fact if you started to ask questions, doubted
the authority and inspiration of the eldership, questioned the
doctrines of the church, you were discarded, thrown out like a
piece of trash, and told you were cut off from the one true
church and Holy Spirit.
The membership were told what to think, when to think, how
to think. The people were ruled with a rod of iron. Those
ordained were to be looked upon with trembling awe, as if
infallible. There was to be implicit - even blind - faith, trust,
and obedience to the ministry. HWA was for many the Elijah to
come. He would take them to a place of safety to escape the Great
Tribulation, and live to the return of Christ.
Being ordained in the WCG during those years would
practically put you on the same level as the Eternal God Himself.
Yes, that is how fanatically wild and outrageously "cultic" THAT
It is then, understandable I guess, that some who have come
through those traumatic years would possibly "cringe" and
"shudder" at the very words ordination service. To them it only
means human men were given by other human men the power
to "make binding decisions for God, or commit God to work through
an individual chosen by man." In other words, telling God what to
do, having the Lord jump to man's tune, and teaching the rest of
the lay membership that it was so.
Such ordination services are indeed a "sham" and false
doctrine. They turn any group of persons into a fanatical cult.
Now I ponder, that if Mr.Difley and Mr.Edwards had never
experienced such radical, extremism and bizarre teaching about
being ordained to the eldership, and on the other hand
experienced only the ordained ministry of such church
organizations as the Church of God, Seventh Day - the Seventh Day
Adventist - and even some of the large Protestant churches, then
their outlook and attitude concerning ordination would I believe
be quite different than it seems to be at present.
Millions of people from the above churches have no problem
with ordaining individuals to the ministry or deaconship. They
may some of them, have personal difficulties with ceratin elders
and deacons at times, as they do with other members of their
congregation, but they work through those troubles in the main
and do not believe that ordinations should be cast away.
And when it comes down to it, to the bottom line, I do not
think John Difley is against "setting apart" - "consecration" -
ordination services, for he clearly talks about persons having
hands laid upon them by a congregation and being commended to God
for the appointed position.
.....Please turn to Acts 13:1-4.........In this passage
there are several very important points. First, note that God had
already appointed all those named as either prophets or
teachers......Second, for this special calling in the work, the
Holy Spirit actually made a very direct additional appointment to
service. This was most uncommon!.......The third thing to note is
that even though the Holy Spirit did the actual calling, the
local church still had the responsibility for the necessary
spiritual and physical conduct. The church sought after God's
special commendation for Saul and Barnabas through prayer,
fasting, and the laying on of hands......
I have no real problems with J.D's comments till we come to
his "The third thing to note." He says the "local church still
had the responsibility......" and "The church sought after
But the word does NOT SAY that! Please read again -
carefully - verse one. When we use the word "church" our English
way of thinking about that word is the whole membership -
everyone - elders, deacons, and lay persons - all the saints.
Now, verse one says: "....there were IN the church.....certain
prophets and teachers as....." and the subject of thought goes to
naming those prophets and teachers, at least the ones who are
named, for there could have been others also. The point is, the
subject is the prophets and teachers who were IN the church, not
THE WHOLE CHURCH itself.
The Greek word for "in" is EN. Please refer to the
Analytical Greek Lexicon or another work for its many uses. It
means besides other things "among" - "before" - "in the presence
of" - "in the sight, estimation of" - "in the case of" - "in
Once more let me say, the subject of the thought of the
paragraph is NOT the church as a whole but the prophets and
teachers who were IN - PART OF - WITHIN - AMONG - the church!
Verse two says, "As THEY ministered to the Lord...." Who are "the
they"? Why the persons whose names were just given to us above in
verse one. That is the logical structure of the sentence and
thought. It was not the whole church that was ministering and
fasting to the Lord, but the prophets and teachers just
mentioned. So while they were thus doing the Holy Spirit talked
to them, in what exact way is not revealed. It was to the
prophets and teachers named that the Spirit gave instructions to
"Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have
Verse three: "And when THEY had fasted and prayed and laid
hands on them...." The subject has not changed, the thought from
verse one and two continues, the THEY is still the individuals
named beforehand - the prophets and teachers.
It should be clear, there were several leaders IN the church
at Antioch who were giving themselves "continually to prayer and
to the ministry of the word"(Acts 6:4) as well as fasting in this
case. And the Spirit revealed to THEM the work that Barnabas and
Paul(Saul) had been called to undertake. Those men further fasted
and prayed, laid hands upon the two chosen men and sent them
There is no indication or teaching here that the prophets
and teachers concerned HAD TO GO TO THE WHOLE CONGREGATION FOR
THE OKAY OR APPROVAL to send these men out on this work. They
made the decision as a group of prophets and teachers, being led
by the Holy Spirit. They had the freedom and the liberty in
Christ to so do!
We need to get it straight. The freedom and liberty to do
the work of the Lord, as the Spirit of God leads, is VERY WIDE
and BROAD to all the people of the Lord, whoever you are in the
body, when it comes to spreading and teaching the word of truth.
Stephen, a man ordained to "serving tables" did not think
twice about doing great wonders and miracles among the people,
and preaching the truths of God so powerfully to others including
the Jewish priests, that it cost him his life(Acts 6,7). He did
not have to obtain permission to do this from the apostles!
When persecution arose against the church at Jerusalem and
all had to flee save but for the apostles, those who were
scattered abroad(elders, deacons, and all the saints) thought
nothing about going everywhere "preaching the word"(Acts 8:1-4).
This was personal Christian work, and no authorization was needed
from the apostles. This was everyones liberty in the Lord.
Philip, a man called and elected to "serve tables," went to
Samaria and "preached Christ unto them." He also did miracles and
baptized those who believed (Acts 8:5-13). Yes, Peter and John
were sent to give a helping hand, but Philip did not have to get
the "starting orders" from Jerusalem or the apostles. The Spirit
led him to do a work and he just got out there and did it - true
liberty in the Lord.
I have covered this fully already in part one of this study.
I refer you back there for the details of this particular truth.
So the liberty for doing the work of the Lord and spreading
the gospel message extends to all the children of God in the body
of Christ, it extends to the so called "lay person" but it also
extends to the eldership of the church.
The prophets and teachers at Antioch did not have to obtain
permission from the whole membership to send Paul and Barnabas
out to the work the Holy Spirit had called them to do. And no one
got upset at what they did. Everyone knew this was their liberty.
Men Choose By Inspiration of the Holy Spirit
.......it is time to look at the positions in the church
that God expects to be filled by the choice of men.....The first
such appointments recorded for the early church are in Acts 6:1-
Importantly we must note that nowhere in this passage are
the seven referred to as deacons or ministers (diakonos), but the
function to which they were chosen certainly is of the definition
of one who ministers or is a deacon. Of even more importance is
the fact that the very apostles seem not to have had the
necessary authority to do the choosing of the seven, since they
said to the entire congregation, "Select from among you....."
Can we not assume that if anyone had authority to unilaterally
choose another to serve in the ministry it would have been the
apostles? Yet the apostles told the entire congregation to do the
I have difficulties with the comments in the last paragraph.
It is true that these seven men chosen to "serve tables" were not
called deacons or given any official title by the apostles or the
congregation of disciples. At least the record does not tell us
any official name was given to them, yet we can not be dogmatic
about that because all the details of what transpired in everyday
language after the event, among the elders and saints is not
revealed to us.
I shall assume the seven were not given the title of deacon
for the sake of argument.
The English words I have circled above "serving" and "serve"
is the translation from the Greek that we render as deacon. The
basic spelling of the Greek is diakonos and as Vine's Expository
Dictionary says it "primarily denotes a 'servant' ...." The word
servant can and does have a BROAD meaning both in Greek and
English languages, and must be understood how it is being used
within each context.
There are a number of clear points we can derive from this
section of scripture. One is, these men were elected, chosen,
appointed to do something. Another clear point is that they were
to meet certain standards or have specific qualifications. Then
it is also plain to see they were to serve in a physical work -
serving tables - serving the widows. Lastly, the context brings
forth that these men were presented before the elders and a
ceremony, service, or whatever you want to call it, was performed
of praying and laying on of hands.
These men were "set apart" to function as SERVERS, or as in
the Greek - deacons.
We do not know if they were called "servers" or "table
servers" or "servers of widows" or "deacons." We do not know if
they were given at that time or after that time ANY OFFICIAL
name, but one thing is certain, they were elected to function in
a particular duty and work. Now I ask you this question: Is it
wrong to give a newly created job and those working in that duty,
No, it is not! Why the business world does it all the time,
the manufacturing companies do it, when offices expand and new
duties are created the department and those in it are usually
given a name. It is just good orderly practice to do so.
The early NT church(its elders and saints) saw a need to
create a new department, to staff it with persons who had ceratin
qualification, to outline the duties(serving tables, serving
widows) and to set them apart with prayer and the laying on of
hands. They were to serve in a defined function.
Is it wrong for us today to call that same type of function
and person - a server or DEACON?
Let me show you something very interesting that I believe
will answer our question. Turn to the gospel of Mark and chapter
three. Please note verse 13 and 14. Jesus calls many to Him into
a mountain region, then He elects, appoints, ordains a special
circle of twelve.
Now go over to the gospel of Luke and find a little more
detail revealed to us about this event. Chapter six and read
verses twelve through to sixteen. Ah, ah, do you see it?
Jesus chose, elected, twelve, and there it is in verse 13, after
His choosing of the twelve HE NAMED THEM APOSTLES!
The word apostle means "one sent forth" - not any big deal
in the word itself, many people can be sent forth in many
different contexts and circumstances. Yet Jesus saw fit to give
these men who would function as spiritual elders in His church a
particular name or title. They were like all the other disciples
of Christ(see verse 13 again) up to this point - just one of
MANY. Then Jesus saw the need to create a new function of duty
with twelve disciples, and give it(or them) a name - apostles.
Within the true believers of the true Church of God that
Jesus had around Him at that time, there was no use of the word
"apostles." No one was calling anyone by that name. Jesus
introduced to the church that He was head of, a new function and
a new name for that function. Nobody said: You can not do that
because we have never had it before, Moses never gave it to us.
Do you see what I am getting at? The Church of the Living
God has always to some extent been adapting within the law and
liberty of the working of the Lord. Jesus did not think twice
about establishing a new function and giving those called to that
function a NAME. And this was all done about 1,500 years after
the "church in the wilderness" was established by God through
The apostles together with the multitude of disciples did
not think it strange to establish a new function of duty within
the church, for qualified and elected persons who were set apart
with a ceremony of prayer and laying on of hands. Perhaps they at
that time did not give a name to that new function of men, BUT WE
TODAY(actually within about 100 years of Acts 6) FOLLOWING THE
EXAMPLE OF JESUS(given above) CALL THEM SERVANTS OR DEACONS!
It is NOT WRONG for the Church of God to have persons whose
duty it is to function in an appointed and elected capacity
regarding the "serving of tables" - physical things, and to
officially name them deacons!
Now back to Acts 6 and other important insights.
There was trouble brewing in the early NT church, some
widows from a certain ethnic group were being neglected during
the daily physical necessities of life, that would have needed to
have been administrated at that time, for, "the number of the
disciples was multiplied"(verse one).
One thing in strikingly obvious from the first words of
verse two. During the murmuring among the membership as a whole,
the members did not gather themselves together apart from the
elders/apostles and say: Well we have some big time trouble
here, let's form some committees among ourselves, figure out what
needs to be done, and then go tell the apostles what we have
decided to do about this problem.
Please remember Acts 6 and what we are looking at, was a
LARGE serious problem. We are not talking about "How many seats
shall we set up for this day's church service."
On the other hand we need to remember also that we are not
talking about the doctrines of God, or spiritual matters, or
We are looking at a large, important administrational
problem that would have included the correct Christian
distribution of physical goods that the widows needed for
Under those circumstances, the membership did not get
together and tell the apostles/elders what to do. They had enough
proper respect for the elders to let their feelings be known, to
let the elders know there was an important and large problem
brewing, and wait on the thoughts of the elders.
Verse two shows us that up to this time in the history of
the NT church, it would seem the apostles were trying to do
everything in the administration of the spiritual and physical
duties that would be involved in a relatively new organization,
that was increasing by leaps and bounds.
When the problem was before them, the apostles did listen,
they were approachable, they did come up with a solution. But
look, this passage plainly shows that under those serious
circumstances, it was the eldership that had the responsibility
to solve the difficulty in the church. Again, remember, we are
talking about the physical.
The problem was of a physical nature. The apostles knew
their calling and main function of duty in life was on the
spiritual not on doing a whole bunch of physical cares
and activities in the church, though they were important and
needed to be taken seriously also. Yet, they could see the first
priority in the lives of the eldership was prayer and the
word of God(verses 2, 4).
Concerning this physical problem, the apostles had enough
respect for the membership (knowing the Spirit of God was in them
also) to delegate to them the responsibility of enacting the plan
that the apostles had decided upon, which would defuse the
murmuring and administer the physical goods of the church in an
appropriate way for all concerned.
It is a true rule and law that every good leader knows the
necessity to delegate responsibilities to trusted and faithful
persons, for the betterment and smooth operation of the whole.
You will notice from verse 3, it was also the
apostles/elders who handed down the standard of qualifications
that the seven men whom they - the membership - were delegated to
find and elect. The membership did not come up with these
qualifications and tell the elders "this is how it will be." It
was the elders being led by the Spirit of God as spiritual
overseers of the flock, who put down the basic qualifying
requirements that the men had to have for this new function
within the NT church.
Even in physical matters the elders are to lead the way. And
surely this should be so. Why have called, elected, elders in the
church (as the apostles were), that others are to respect and
look up to for an example in word and deed of true Christianity,
if they are not leading in both the spiritual and the physical.
Anything less just makes the Church of God a laughing stock to
the unconverted world. Oh, when I say the elders should lead
in the physical also, I do not mean in wealth and possessions.
The apostles were not as wealthy as some who came into the
church, that is clear from the Gospels and early chapters of
The whole multitude was pleased with the attitude of the
apostles, there was some team work going on here. No high handed
vanity and pomposity going on here with anyone. The congregation
did what the apostles delegated them to do. Then did the
congregation run off when they had chosen the qualified men, to
some secret or private location and there by themselves, without
the elders, pray and lay hands upon these men? No! The word of
God says: "WHOM THEY SET BEFORE THE APOSTLES"(verse 6).
And further we need to ask the question: In all of this who
had the final say about these chosen men?
Was it the congregation that had final authority in saying
if this or that man was to be elected to serve in this function?
Or was the "last word" or final authority still held by the
Many have missed what is written in the word. You will find
it in verse 3. It is written, the apostles speaking: "......whom
WE MAY APPOINT OVER THIS BUSINESS."
That is why after the selection had been made by the
congregation of men meeting the qualifications as laid down by
the apostles, for this physical duty, they brought and set them
before the apostles. The "last word" on the matter was still in
the hands and under the authority of the apostles. They could
have discounted any one or more of those men if evidence
And WHY NOT! Up to this time in the history of the NT
church, the apostles had been trying to do BOTH the spiritual and
the physical duties(see Acts 4:32-37; 5:1-5). They were now going
to hand over the physical aspects of the church to other persons.
As ones called to be overseers (Acts 20) of the flock of the
Lord, they had the right to lay down the qualifications those
individuals should have, delegate the election to others,
AND ALSO TO HAVE THE LAST WORD.
Concerning the argument from verse six as to who laid hands
upon whom, was it the apostles laying hands on them, or was it
the congregation that did the honours. My answer to that is: The
subject of the sentence is the apostles, the logical thought and
sequence is concerning the apostles, bringing them to the
apostles for a reason, the reason being as verse three has
stated, ".....that we may appoint over this business."
The final approval was done by the apostles, backed up with
prayer and the laying on of hands from them.
If this was not the case, but final authority was in the
hands of the congregation, then there would have been no need to
have brought these men before the apostles. Someone from the
congregation could have at some other time, merely told the
apostles whom they had chosen and whom they(the multitude of
disciples) had laid hands on and prayed over.
TO BE CONTINUED